Kayaking the Hudson Valley
A few local paddles that offer several different kinds of adventure
PHOTO Justin Goodhart
Kayaking is enjoying a popularity explosion. Few recreational activities offer greater access to peace and quiet, scenic vistas and wildlife viewing. Kayakers often report seeing beaver, muskrat, otter, turtles, bald eagles, kingfishers and all kinds of waterfowl. Plus modern kayaks tend to be lightweight, portable and easy to navigate around twists and turns or in shallow water.
From ponds, lakes, marshes and streams to the Hudson River, our area offers paddles ranging from easy to extremely challenging. Here are a few local paddles that offer several different kinds of adventures, each recommended by one of my experienced kayaking friends.
Tivoli Bays: This paddle offers freshwater tidal marshes, but be aware: that also means tides and currents. Plan your trip so you return to the launch site before low tide, and don’t try to go under any bridges during high tide! A good (but not-so-easy) launch site is the one on Kidd Road in Red Hook, maintained by the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve. You have to carry your boat down a steep path and stairway to the dock. You can explore North Bay, a tidal marsh with many channels, and can paddle into the Hudson River if you like—but watch out for boat traffic in the river.
Stissing Pond: A 150-acre glacial lake against a backdrop of mountains, this beautiful setting offers an easy paddle. With both forest and marsh, the shoreline is perfect for birding. Lake Road, off State Route 199 in Pine Plains, circles the lake. You can park and launch from Beach Road on the northeastern edge, near the town beach, or park in a pull-off on either side of Lake Road at the southeast corner of the lake.
GPS: 41.9740/-73.6708 (beach-area launch).
Wappinger Creek: Use the Reese Park boat launch off Creek Road. Paddle southwest a mile and a half (or more if you want to enter the Hudson, but watch out for boat traffic), and then turn back. If you pass the launch area and continue past Market Street Industrial Park, you can paddle to the falls and then return to the launch site.
East Branch Croton River: This river is better known as the Great Swamp. Launch from the Green Chimneys beach off Doansburg Road in Brewster, opposite the campus (evenings and weekends only, as it is used by the school at other times). Paddle upstream. There may be beaver dams to portage, and water levels can be unpredictable depending on the weather and beaver activity, but paddle through the “lake” and then as far as your will takes you. When you turn around, you’ll go with the flow back to the launch site.
Constitution Marsh: Audubon New York offers canoe and kayak tours of the marsh. For additional information, visit ConstitutionMarsh.Audubon.org/ Programs/Guided-Canoe-Trips.
Mohansic Lake: This 106-acre lake in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park is surrounded by woods and lawns. If you use your own boat, an annual boat pass is required. In the park, turn right down the driveway marked Restricted Area. Park along the shoulder of the access road.
Hudson River: Most of the best paddling in Westchester is in the Hudson. Several companies offer guided kayak and canoe trips, while some offer instruction and rent the boats. I can’t recommend anyone, but I know that Hudson River Recreation and Hudson River Expeditions offer rentals, lessons and tours.
Points to Remember
Weather conditions and natural events impact the waterways and can’t be predicted. Even if you are a good swimmer, you should wear a personal flotation device (life vest). Bring a charged cell phone in a sealed plastic bag, and water to drink. Maps can add to the fun, especially if you paddle the Hudson River.
In order to help stop the spread of invasive organisms, please clean your boat, shoes and clothes before entering any waterway, especially if you are moving between waterways. Bits of plant and animal material or seeds can and do get stuck.
A great resource for kayakers is A Kayaker’s Guide to the Hudson River Valley by Shari Aber (Black Dome Press, 2007).
Jill Eisenstein is a freelance writer, environmental educator, Cornell Master Naturalist, and outdoor enthusiast. She has lived in the Hudson Valley for over 25 years.